“There is an abomination that plagues this world,” reads the legend that accompanies the third level of Snoitcelfer. There is indeed. It’s the soundtrack, which thuds along tunelessly in the background and would be far better suited to accompanying a Wesley Snipes car chase.
Thankfully, you can mute it, and that just leaves you with a slick monochrome arcade puzzler that’s itching to tie your brain in knots. Snoitcelfer is a 2D platformer, with most of the spike pits, roving enemies and precision jumps that term suggests. All is not quite as it seems, however: there’s an invisible barrier running horizontally along the middle of the screen, and it splits the image in two, with the maze on the top half mirrored on the bottom.
Sadly, it’s not a perfect copy, and although the top maze is pin-sharp, it’s missing crucial platforms that are, in turn, only visible on the fuzzier reflection beneath it. These platforms are still there on the top, of course, you just can’t see them. For the first few levels of the game, then, you have to adjust yourself so that you’re using controls calibrated for one landscape while navigating another – and this second landscape is upside down.
This is harder than it initially seems. Much, much harder, in fact, as, no matter how often you initially remind yourself of the central gimmick, your eyes will inevitably start wandering back to the top of the screen, where the image is clearer but much more treacherous. Eventually, however, you’ll teach your brain to stay focused on the bottom of the screen for longer periods of time. Well done, brain. Sadly, Snoitcelfer is way ahead of you.
This is when the game starts leaving vital platforms out of the maze on the bottom, too, meaning that you then have to keep in mind two incomplete versions of the same environment – one, remember, that’s out of focus and upside-down – and somehow stitch both images together to create a true picture of the landscape. Also, since this is a stylish, minimalist platformer with a nice long jump and slick animations, you’ll really want to be doing all this at speed, cutting and pasting obstacles together inside your head even as you race over them, leaping from one invisible peak to the next and avoiding the game’s space hopper meanies.
When it works, it feels truly exhilarating. When it all falls apart, it’s about as frustrating as any 2D platform game can be. Either way, though, it offers a quiet, blurry kind of insight into the way that the parts of your brain in charge of making sense of the visual world tend to approach things, revealing just some of the guesswork and cognitive sleights they employ as they sort through chaos in search of order. That’s not bad for a puzzle platformer, all told – even one with such an irritating soundtrack.